Well the nominations carnival is over, so too is our sheer love of pomposity, gluttony and admission that our politics need a lot of fresh thinking. I wrote somewhere how the opposition keep criticising Government wastefulness on Presidential convoys and ferrying of people, and this week, they fell right into the same trap. I have very little optimism of seeing these blitz loving leaders changing, if at all they make it to State House.
Gwanda Chakuamba as Minister of Agriculture in 2005 spent K10 million of a BMW X5 and when chided that Malawi was experiencing food shortage he answered bluntly: “Even if you asked Kamuzu, that’s the car I love, a BMW” later there was an attempted purchase of Maybach and finally a jet, whose controversies seem not to die, even when it is no longer in our possession.
Bakili Muluzi left us many vocabulary to last a century, one of it is that the opposition first agenda is to go into State House. Look at speeches made by celebrated new comers, they seem to make the former president look like a prophet of politicians.
Enough of the past, let’s look at this week for starters. Since everyone has presented nominations papers, I will start with big losers this week. Next week we will look at pairs, in March we will examine manifestos and in April we will analyse the campaign period, in May we will do constituency by constituency predictions before we vote. In June we will review the electoral process.
Of course this is a fantasy outline of this blog, I have two exams in May to prepare, voting and full time job, so I need to re-work my life time table to ensure that I am available to fulfil all the commitments.
Let me welcome in a special way Atupele Muluzi, Sosten Gwengwe and Soulosi Chilima to the new scrutiny platforms. We will deal with the question of youth participation versus ma Cadet, Morale or Young Democrats or Young Patriots and their exclusive ideas of youth empowerment.
It is funny how our politics plays out, after noticing how Atupele was drawing youth crowds, every major party is rebranding from being gender sensitive to Youth-Friendly. As a youth worker, I welcome the drastic in change, by other parties, though it confirms our lack of ideology. Next time a Bishop of Catholic Church runs, hope we won’t see defection to the Catholic Church by all parties. Anyway, we [have] gained as Youth.
Now who are the big losers?
Of course the biggest loser of the week is Malawi’s State Vice President Khumbo Kachali, who has been left out as runningmate by President Joyce Banda and her Peoples Party. The others in Peoples Party include Uladi Mussa, Henry Phoya, Brown Mpinganjira and Chris Daza who were speculated to have been possible candidates. I am reluctant to add Fahad Assani because he is only new in mainstream politics as having been known mainly in legal circles.
The other is Ken Kandodo who was a subject of gossip caught on tape by [Peter Mutharika], that alongside Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda, [Kandondo was] unsuitable material. Remember the MIJ reporter who went into hiding?
Do I blame the President? That’s the question this article will seriously tackle.
Before we talk of Peoples Party, lets add the Democratic Progressive Party. DPP President unlike President Joyce Banda opted for an outsider, outside his National Executive in the name of Saulosi Chilima. The losers in the DPP include Vice Presidents Hetherwick Ntaba, Nick Masebo and Yunus Mussa. Others are Secretary General Jean Kalirani (the only powerful woman outside the circle) , Goodall Gondwe and Henry Mussa. They have been singled out because they were mentioned as possible runningmates in the media and social media at large. How they react after Chilima came is not part of this article.
But you see in 2009, President Bingu wa Mutharika opted for Joyce Banda leaving people like Goodall Gondwe and Henry Chimunthu Banda who were being touted in the media and public circles. The same happened to then State Vice President Justin Chimera Malewezi, late Aleke Banda, Harry Thomson, Sam Mpasu and Friday Jumbe in 2003, when President Bakili Muluzi opted for Late Bingu wa Mutharika, an outsider to lead the UDF.
UDF President Atupele Muluzi has equally dumped his unknown Vice Presidents who include Iqbal Omar, a Mr. Chituwo and a Mrs Mponela and Secretary General Kandi Padambo, and opted for Godfrey Chapola, who has not been an active politician elsewhere.
The trend continues. The Malawi Congress Party provides lessons on intra party democracy, electing right Vice Presidents at convention and the power of the National Executive over their leaders if Malawian parties will move from being personal properties of their leaders to democratic institutions.
However two casualties in the Malawi Congress Party are Lovemore Munlo and Jodder Kanjere.
The other two losers outside the political parties are Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda who was forced to make a tactical withdraw after failing to find a platform to enhance his political ambition and the same fate that former Transport and Public Works Minister Mohammed Sidik Mia faced after dumping the Peoples Party.
The failure by Chimunthu Banda who became 50 years last year was the final blow that only one of the three branches of Government will appear on the Presidential ballot in 2014. Chimunthu Banda is the head of Legislature, a very influential political platform while Munlo was the head of Judiciary until 2013.
That leaves only President Joyce Banda as a Head of the Executive and former deputy since 2009 to have tactfully played her political cards and claim the top prize. It is however sad we could have measured the power of Executive, Parliament and Judiciary over Malawian population had the three stood as candidates and running mates. A delayed lesson for our political scientists.
Who is to blame? Now that we have this background dating as far as 2001 when people like Brown Mpinganjira were forced out of UDF to form the National Democratic Alliance for opposing Bakili Muluzi’s third term.
Is it coincidence that Vice Presidents in Malawi rarely last to the next election and cannot go up the ladder save for Joyce Banda’s unique circumstances? Will the young ones survive the turbulence or will they be dumped at next election?
There is a political lesson to be learnt that in 2019 we should not see angry people, shunning public events for being left out nor resigning from their parties in a haste if they have never to make it on the ticket.
It is important to start in 1999, soon after Bakili Muluzi won his second term.
Muluzi by the time he won, the UDF face had radically shifted from founders to new comers. Strong characters who started UDF like Sheikh Shaibu Itimu, Edward Bwanali, Collins Chizumila, Alufeyo Chilibvumbo and others had died. People like Arthur Makhalira had lost in Zomba, only praise singers remained and had gained power. These include late Dumbo Lemani, Davies Kapito nd others.
Late Aleke Banda was shifted from the powerful Ministry of Finance to Agriculture and later Health, Brown Mpinganjira was being accused of setting parallel structures while delegation to Vice President Malewezi was limited cartoon activities of opening workshops and attending funerals on behalf of the President. One should have wondered why we needed the office after 1999.
However as much as everyone in UDF was aware than Muluzi was setting himself for a third term, Mpinganjira, Lemani, Speaker Sam Mpasu, Finance Minister Friday Jumbe and all others failed to form a United front and force a declaration from their President that he will respect the UDF constitution and retire. Even gurus like Malewezi and Aleke Banda were quite in their silence.
The fall of Brown Mpinganjira in December 2001 alongside Peter Chupa and Cassim Chilumpha, the open fight with Mpasu in Parliament indicated the greed among most of our senior politicians. Quickly they ganged together and fought BJ until he was ousted.
The political joke was they were still too many left. Malewezi, Aleke , Mpasu, Thomson and even Lemani among others, all hoping to succeed Muluzi.
When he pulled a third joker, they loved their positions more than Malawi and by now Muluzi had a good spokesperson Speaker Davis Katsonga to do his biding in Parliament. Even when Malawians cried against the UDF young democrats and the third term, all senior Ministers in UDF pretended they never heard it.
In the end it was Reverend Daniel Gunya, Father Constantine Kaswaya of PAC and Anglican, Reverend Peter Kaleso sacked from Cabinet for opposing the third term, Cassim Chilumpha and Jan Jaap Sonke who moved and joined a coalition led by Opposition parties including Chakuamba, BJ and others to oppose the third term.
In other words people like Aleke, Malewezi, Jumbe, Mpasu and others waited Malawians to fight on their behalf. Well MCP was split and Aford went further to even move a motion for third term.
Muluzi did a kamikaze on all their political lives, he opted for an outsider Bingu and paired him with the rebel Chilumpha. It was a classic political comedy as people left UDF in a hurry to look for new platforms, suddenly being aware of UDF evils when they could not speak weeks before thinking they will be the chosen one.
This is a classic example of how most of our politicians have found themselves left out even today.
Fast forward to Bingu, by 2009 Cabinet Ministers were busy gossiping each other to Bingu than building solid political bases. Joyce Banda managed to get grassroots poplar bills like Wills and Inheritance Bill, sealed the Chinese deal and earned praise on her charity work, others went to report each other daily and were nowhere near public causes.
Of course the gossip between 2005 to 2009 included reports to Bingu of Ministers such as Ken Lipenga, Henry Phoya and others being sighted at Bakili Muluzi’s BCA house. How these other Ministers spotted others has always been a source of fun in my mind, they themselves might have been hiding in Muluzi’s bedroom when these other Ministers arrived. That’s the only explanation I would give to any question of myself being sighted at some strange place.
Bingu opted for a popular name and face among the poor. They cried. I don’t remember who resigned but many failed in their elections.
Joyce Banda only enjoyed her term for a year, then back were the the gossipers that a bridge was quickly built and two people JB and Khumbo Kachali were isolated. The battle lines were drawn when Peter Mutharika was pushed to the front and finally when Bingu married Callista, hell broke loose for then Vice President.
The Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda could have made history if he spoke against abuse of a fellow DPP founder, but everyone went quite. And it was Ministers again, insulting her walking difficulties in public, while jostling to become Peter Mutharika’s runningmate.
When the flag was changed, it was Ministers justifying the hollow “we have developed mantra” others jumped and justified the banning of government adverts on newspapers which criticized Bingu’s autocracy and unpopular laws such as section 46 formed to silence the media and the injunction bill which limited people’s rights to hold demonstrations.
When Malawians were tired sleeping at filling stations, forex shortage, insulting speeches, many of the losers today including the Speaker protected their positions and could not speak with the suffering Malawians. No Malawians do not need leaders who cow down when they are in comfort zone and only speak when they are out.
President Joyce Banda and Atupele Muluzi were the only political faces daring Bingu during his extreme days. Many preferred to keep quite and let Malawians sought their anger.
Transition came, they had no shame of joining the new administration and swallowing their vomit just a week ago.
Today when they cry that they have been left out, send angry social media messages, some of us look at their contribution to mother Malawi.
If our National Executive Committees of all political parties did not specialise on hero worshipping, gossiping and fighting among themselves, they could have approached their party Presidents a month ago and tabled the issue of running mate, lay a criteria and task a special committee to bring up CVs which they can scrutinise and agree upon.
If our perceived politicians want to make it to high position, selfishness and self-destruction mode of gossip and internal fighting should be replaced with open discussion, confrontation and strict internal systems that allows intra-party democracy.
Everybody should be committed to finance, support and develop the parties and speak when Malawians are crying for their leadership. Keeping quiet and hoping Presidents will pick you is not a strategy.
Some went for players on mountain praying and fasting the whole three days, I hope they are not cursing God for being left out. It is lack of intra-party democracy, love of money and selfishness that has seen people being left out since 1999.
Unfortunately, quitting parties is not a right decision now. It is rethinking your strategy, reaching out to more Malawians, developing your political strength through networking, humbleness and being for the people than for the President that one will be able to build his future political base. For those above 50 its time to retire, the running mates this election have shifted one of the qualification to include YOUTH and it will be so until 2034.
The unnecessary fights among those below the Presidents, gossip and selfishness today has cost majority of our experienced politician their progress. We can learn from the past, or we can continue doing nomadic politics of dumping one party to another, and fade like the Alliance for Democracy into a shadow of itself.
I will therefore, not blame Joyce Banda of PP, Atupele Muluzi of UDF and DPP’s Peter Mutharika for their choices of runningmates. Chakwera tabled the running mate issue in their executive and the executive decided. The experienced politicians should come down and start examining their roles in strengthening intra-party democracy before coming down and crying to Malawians. Fighting each other leaves strangers to take over your positions! Bitter lesson to all!
Tell Friday Jumbe, Mark Katsonga, George Mnesa, Helen Singh, James Nyondo, John Chisi and Davies Katsonga if they love Malawi, they should not make the ballot paper unnecessary long, it costs money to print longer than shorter 8 million ballot papers! Can they not learn from Kamuzu Chibambo!
Next Friday: Gwengwe, Chilima and Atupele and the dancing youth at party rallies?
- Disclaimer for the author who works at Malawi High Commission in London: I am a Malawian citizen with equal rights to comment on my country’s future and opportunities. I believe my compatriots can take into account of such fundamental right before screaming our party loyalties. I write in my personal capacity.